How did you spend 11-11-11?
A Real Bookstore announcing a special event they were hosting on November 11: An Evening with Stephen King. I've been fortunate to see some amazing authors, but this one ... well, let's just say, I didn't see this opportunity presenting itself for me again anytime in the near future. Normally I'd have forwarded the email to my fellow bloggers first, but I figured my husband would want to go so I called him instead. Yes, he was on board. So, I purchased our tickets and eagerly awaited the date.
When we took our seats in the sold-out auditorium, we were kept entertained by trivia questions that played on the screen over the stage. "What book was inspired by Stephen King's run-in with a Saint Bernard?" Easy. Cujo. "What event inspired the book Pet Sematary?" Stephen King's daughter's cat getting run over on the highway. And so it went until he appeared on stage and commandeered the microphone, stepping from behind the lectern and ignoring the stool provided for him.
My first impression was how small he appeared to be. I guess anyone larger-than-life appears remarkably normal when you finally see him in person, and we were pretty far back so his 6'4" frame seemed non-imposing. My second impression was how funny he was. Immediately engaging, he had the audience laughing much of the time--not at all the dark and brooding persona one might imagine given the stories the man creates.
He talked a lot about his early writing career--from his first autograph (while in the john, given to the restroom attendant) to his first time being recognized in public. He said he's often asked what scares him. "Everything," he said. "Spiders, snakes, the elevator in my hotel, standing up here talking to a large crowd." Apparently, most writers--even notorious ones--share this fear.
Before answering questions from the audience, he read a few pages from his new book: 11/22/63, a "what-if" tale of time travel and Kennedy's assassination. His research for the book brought him to Dallas and he returned for a benefit event the night before for the Sixth Floor Museum. In doing research for the book, he said he watched a lot of old tourism movies from the Dallas Public Library to get a feel for the setting of that era--what people wore and drove, the look of the town.
I resisted the urge to take notes during his talk as I didn't want to be distracted, but a few of the questions from the audience turned to the subject of craft and I couldn't help myself. Here are a few of my favorite responses to questions (paraphrased here):
When asked if he thought it was harder or easier today for new writers to make a name for themselves as authors, Mr. King said that he thought it was easier today given all the different venues one has available through ebooks and self-publishing. But he thought people put too much emphasis on getting published. "You have to get words on paper, words on paper, words on paper--then worry about the business side of it."
When asked if he would ever consider writing for young adults, he said, "Well, I write for the whole family!"
When asked which of his book-to-screen projects he was most proud of, he listed: Stand by Me, Storm of the Century, and Shawshank Redemption.
Other thoughts on writing included:
- There's a "beautiful hypnosis that takes affect" when you get immersed while writing a book.
- While writing, "characters do things that surprise you and that's the greatest thing of all."
- "The worst day I had in that chair (while writing) was absolutely terrific."
- When starting a new book, "you have that feeling of total inadequacy."